HOW I SLEPT WITH MY PARTNER
(WITHOUT REALLY TRYING)
by Jaime Lyn
* Prepare for a long, strange journey in this one. Actually, you know how this chapter came about? I had a really wierd dream involving a marching band show in college, a Christmas Eve dinner from way back in elementary school, and something that had happened in the library the day before. My dream kept skipping back and forth. No specific rhyme or reason. Strange stuff. Finally, when I woke up, (and I actually remembered everything) I sat down and tried to figure out what each event had in common, and why I would dream about them in the order that I did. The result is this...um... roller-coaster Scully chapter, but I hope you guys like it. I promise, I'm not smoking anything. Really.
PART SIX (2/2)
Mulder and Scully:
On Getting it Together
There's no Way to Cheat on a Blood Test
IN THE EXAM ROOM.
NO MORE TAPE FEED LEFT.
“So, Dana, how is life at the bureau going?”
Victoria Klausman—Vicki for short. We had a class together. Anatomy 101 or Advanced Anatomy or... something with the word Anatomy in the title. Might have been Gross Anatomy. I don't know. College was so long ago that now I have problems remembering the name of classes I had, professors I once adored... But no--that's not completely true. There are a few things... like a song that was playing on the radio when I drove up to Maryland for the first time--The Sound of Silence. I remember humming and drumming my fingers on the dash, smiling when the D.J announced weather for the College District. A balmy Seventy degrees, with mostly clear skies.
“Everything’s going alright,” I say, my voice soft.
How fucking funny is that? I can recall the weather, the slate gray color of the table Vicki and I sat at, the angle of the sun as it scattered rays over the heads of the people around us, but I can’t remember the name of the class. Jesus. Selective memory, you think, or will I eventually block everything out?
"Well, you know I'm always glad to see you," Vicki says. She pushes a dark brown curl out of her left eye. Her long brown hair is still as long as it used to be, except now Vicki keeps it secured in a banana clasp. Her silver rimmed glasses have been replaced with blue contacts, and there’s a suspicious looking diamond and gold ring on her ring finger. Married? Divorced? Engaged? There’s no diamond solitaire anywhere on her hand to accompany the first.
"Sucks that an illness brought you in here," Vicki says.
Damn, fucking blue gown is driving me fucking crazy-- this fuzzy, paper itch that comes from something bunching and folding in all the wrong places. I feel like my skin’s too tight. About to burst. Maybe I’m just overreacting. I'm not used to being on this side of the table...
Or no—that’s all wrong.
Maybe I’m so used to being on this side of the table that I can’t stand to even think about the possibilities. Cancer, infertility, mass infection, gun shot wounds, bruises up and down my arms, my legs, black and blue and yellowing around the edges…
Vivki’s staring at me. How long has she been staring at me?
“I’m sorry...Could you please repeat that?”
“I didn’t say anything, Dana. You just looked sort of... spaced out.”
Neither of us speaks for an uncomfortable moment.
Alright. Nothing important has been said yet. Cancer. Lump. Growth. These are words I can see coming out of Vicki's mouth. So far, I haven’t heard them. That must mean I didn't miss anything.
I shake my head and clear my throat, although I can’t find anything to say. Vicki moves to my left, stands directly in front of me and kneels. Her palm finds my chin and she turns my face from side to side.
“Nasty bruise you got there,” she says. “You get that before or after you got sick?”
My eye throbs where Vicki's cold fingers brush over the skin.
“After,” I say, choosing not to explain myself.
I think of Mulder, his arms outstretched, his face distorted by terror. He’d tried so hard to catch me before I fell. I could see him, the beige of his face, the brown swirl of his hair, the colors blended together in one distorted hue. He’d said my name, ‘Scully,’ just like that. And then a black curtain fell over my eyes and I couldn't see anything. I was out for about nine minutes. How ironic is that?
"Right. Well, just... be careful." Vicki eyes me with an expression that borders on curiosity. I can't help but wonder what she must think of me, my cheek purple and my eye swollen. She probably thinks I fell into some sort of destructive relationship, possibly with some asshole who used to be a suspect from one of my "G-Woman" cases. Vicki sees a person who once had her whole life in front of her, but who now chooses to get the shit kicked out of her--not only for a living, but at home as well. Fucking embarrassing, that's what this visit is. And I can't even explain my lifestyle to her because I have too many problems explaining my lifestyle to... well, myself.
Vicki turns to the white counter-top behind her, picks up my chart and turns back around. "Well, the important thing is that you came in before your symptoms got worse." She looks down at the chart and sighs, leaning one arm on her hip to crack her back. "Sorry," she says, looking up with a brief smile. "Long day. I'm sure you can understand-- Almost as bad as Spiro's class back in College--you remember when we had to dissect that dead cat?" She giggles.
"Ah yes, Fluffy," I say. "Best pet--"
"I ever had," she finishes.
Both of us laugh.
For a brief second, all is forgotten in the wake of my backwards trek: Freshman year. A forty person Anatomy class, a half dozen metal utencils, a large metal pan, the smell of antiseptic and vinegar, and one very dead, very fat, furless cat that Vicki and I had named "Fluffy."
Yes, yes, I know. Stupid. But we were nineteen at the time.
Vicki and I spent about forty minutes dissecting "Fluffy" before we got bored. With a lack of better things to do, Vicki started up a rousing game of Truth or Dare. The game went about four rounds before one of us actually chose Dare over Truth. Upon the question, "who was the last person you gave a blowjob?" I chickened out on account of the fact that I'd never actually given anyone a blowjob. (Not that Vicki needed to know this.) So I opted for Dare, of course. The dare was that I had to cut off one of Fluffy's paws and stick it onto the end of my scalpel. I then had to approach this blonde girl named Christy, who hated dissecting anything, and wave to her with the paw adorned scalpel.
"Who says cats aren't friendly?" Vicki said, and she gave me a shove in Christy's direction.
In the end, Fluffy waved, the professor failed both Vicki and I for the lab--on account of dangerous and bizarre horseplay, and Christy vomited twice on her way out from the classroom. I was mortified, but Vicki thought the waving cat paw to be the funniest prank she'd ever seen in a classroom. "Best pet I ever had," she said.
A crying baby in the next room jerks me back into the present. The mangled wails echo off the yellow walls of the exam room, each cry lancing through me like a white, hot sword. I think of William, his tiny hands and his tiny feet. My baby, my only baby. I should have just stayed home with him, and with Mulder. We could have all curled up in bed together and watched the sun set.
God, I don't want to die. I don't want--
Jesus. Where did that come from? What the hell is wrong with me? I'm not fucking dying. I'm not.
I smile at Vicki, my fingers interlaced tightly in my lap. How wonderful it would be to go back to college, to start everything over with all my choices laid out like an endless, bright green mesa in front of me.
"So," Vicki starts, looking down once again at the chart. "Headaches, nausea, fainting, and the occasional nose bleed. All contained, for the most part, in a few brief, violent episodes that have been occuring at random intervals for the past two weeks or so. We've already established that you're normally not prone to heat stroke, anxiety, acid reflux, or any of that fun stuff. Plus, you've also told me about your... what was this? A near fatal, Nasalpharangeal mass that spread a rare form of Cancer into your bloodstream, but went into remission a few years ago. This Cancer, you've told me, is the only time you can remember ever experiencing these... let's call them 'episodes,' where either you'd feel nauseous, faint, or your nose would bleed. I get all that right?"
I force a smile, not really knowing how to answer. God. Vicki makes me sound like the Chief freak of a new army of modern medicinal freaks. Is this what Mulder feels like when I regurgitate his theories back to him in my own words?
"Yeah," I say, not particularly wanting to look at Vicki. "That sounds like the right amount of bizarre."
Vicki nods, returns the chart back to the table behind her. She faces me with her long legs crossed, her elbows leaning back onto the counter. "I'd say you're one lucky duck," she says.
I nod. "I'd say you're probably right."
Vicki clears her throat. "Yes, well, that brings me to my first question, which is... have you ever had children, Dana?"
I open my mouth, close it. On the far wall is a picture of three babies in a basket.
"Yes," I say, distracted. "I um, I had a child last year. A boy. William."
Five years ago the sight of babies in a basket would not have bothered me. In fact, I probably would have rolled my eyes at the very thought. Like I could always have a baby. Like I had time trapped in a box inside my pocket. I could turn the hands of my own specialized clock backwards, sideways, up-ways and down-ways. Time moved in all directions for me--just like the elevator in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. I could turn the time on, turn the time off; I could flip the clock any way I wanted it to go. I had it all fucking figured out, didn't I?
"Ah," says Vicki. "And during your pregnancy, did you experience any nausea, fainting spells, similar symptoms?"
I look up, confused. "What?"
Vicki clears her throat. "What I'm trying to say... here...Daye, is that I think you've overreated; that you ignored the most obvious and certainly, less terrifying answer, for whatever reason..."
I want to tell Vicki that she has no idea--NO idea what she's talking about.
I was twenty nine when I began work on the X Files. I had the world stretched out in front of me like a giant blanket of safety. No matter how many miserable, disgusting monsters Mulder and I came across in our line of work, I always knew I’d be alright. I had my job and my family and my freedom of choice. I was secure in knowing that I could quit at any time to get married, to be a mother, to stop fighting the good fight. But I chose not to. I wanted to make the journey with Mulder. Maybe it was narcissitic of me, but I felt a measure of heroism.
I didn’t want to be ordinary.
Even though the world was often taken from me and returned with another chunk missing, I felt important. I felt important to the world and to Mulder. I was the most paramount person in Mulder’s life, and I knew it. I relished it. I’d never recieved that kind of devotion from anyone. And Mulder's unwavering faith made me feel like I could conquer all the mysteries of the natural world and hand them to him. Like I could wrap all the evils up in a ball of light and toss them to the moon.
I look up, my chin quivering.
Is this what all the sacrificing was for? Another bout of cancer? Mulder forcing himself into marriage? What have Mulder and I given each other besides entrapment? What good was all the fighting, the working, the near deaths, when I've only held him back? Almost nine years later, and Mulder still has no retribution: no truth, no X Files, no justice, only now he has a child tucked under one arm to keep him tethered to a life he never asked for. A child and... and me.
"Daye--" Vicki touches my shoulder. "You need to hear me out. I'm not sure why you don't want to hear this, because I get the feeling that you don't. But you have to listen. I'm trying to tell you--"
"Just--" I close my eyes. "One second..."
I can't deal with this right now.
I have to tell her--I'm barren.
And when I leave this room, I have tell Mulder no. I can't have a husband who's always staring longingly into the sky, wondering what if . I know Mulder doesn't want to get married.. He thinks *I* want to get married. Fuck. This is insane. What the hell have we done to each other?
"I'm not--" I press a finger to my forehead. Tiny needles of hammering there. Soft at first, then harder and louder, resonating behind my eyes. "--Not able to have children, Vik. It was...a medical procedure that... it left me barren. So I'm not...not pregnant. If that's what you're insinuating."
My head throbs, my overworked brain sending spirals of pain shooting out from every vein and muscle. I feel like I'm dying. Like small pieces of me are being eaten away by all the time I've squandered. The time I've stolen from Mulder and kept hidden for William, and for myself.
Vicki's voice from far away, echoing. "Actually, that's exactly what I'm insinuating." I can't tell where she is anymore; my eyes are closed. The light hurts my pupils. Stings like crazy. "And I don't know who told you you're barren, but whoever it was should get their medical license taken away."
"No," I say, my hand shaking and covering my face. Damn these headaches! "You don't understand. It's impossible. I was told--"
"This isn't an hypothesis, Dana. I'm telling you straight out. As soon as I read your triage form I ordered the blood test. The work-up only took a few minutes, and the results were conclusive. You're not in any way, shape or form barren. You're pregnant. Beyond a doubt--Dana? Day? What's wrong?"
Three babies in a basket. A husband. Mulder being free to pursue his dream. It all would have been believable nine years ago. How funny that time moves in a straight line when you're not thinking about it, but when you think hard enough, or when you try hard enough, you can bend and twist time into a tiny knot--
"Dana! Dana, do you feel light-headed? Are you going to black out again? Speak to me."
Pregnant. That's funny. A real joke. Just like Fluffy, except Fluffy was already dead and so I suppose he wasn't as funny as we thought he was. Wouldn't it be great to go back and save Fluffy? I probably could have saved him if I really wanted to. Or maybe he wasn't really dead. Just like I'm not really pregnant.
I want to climb the walls and scream until my face is purple and I pass out. No! I want to tell her. You've got it all wrong! I can't have children but I CAN have Cancer. Cancer, Vicki! Don't you know I'm supposed to have Cancer? I know how to fight Cancer. I know how to face death. I don't know how to have another baby and justify nailing the lid on Mulder's coffin.
Oh fuck, my head--
I know what's coming now, I know--
Mulder won't run away from me if he thinks I'm sick and oh jesus would another baby kill me because my body can't handle the strain but it's impossible that's what Doctor what's her name said but then that was a long time ago and times change oh how they change because time doesn't always move forward and holy shit pregnant no that's so wrong I won't get my hopes up---
FADE TO BLACK
*** * *
"--Scully? Scully, you fell asleep. Wake up. It's Christmas."
"Yeah. Santa tried to come in through the chimney, but I thought he was one of those big, red Reticulans... so I shot him."
"That sucks, Mulder."
"Hey--not so fast. I think the fat guy left you a present before he dropped."
"Oh, really? What? Coal?"
"Naw, that was last year. This is better. I promise."
"I'm not going to have to put batteries in it, am I?"
"Hang it from my windshield?"
"Chase it around the house with a baseball bat?"
"Just open it, Scully."
"Alright, I--... Oh... Oh Mulder. This is a--"
"Marry me, Scully."
"I love you. All I know is that I love you. Marry me. Dana--"
** ***** *** **** *
"---Katherine, Dana Katherine!”
Melissa had the covers pulled up to her chin. In the dark, her ivory skin looked tan and her strawberry blonde hair looked black. The lavender walls of our bedroom were shadowed and warm: everything was safe here. It was Christmas Eve and neither of us could sleep. Melissa pretended that she was too old for all that Christmas, opening presents, Santa Claus garbage, but she was still too wired to close her eyes.
“What is it?” I hissed back.
Both of us glanced at the doorway. Mom and Dad didn’t like closed doors at night, and so the light from the hallway trickled into our room, creating a narrow path of light that stretched from the opened doorway to the foot of Melissa’s four poster bed. Billy paced back and forth outside the door, his lightly freckled face stuck in a comic book. Every once in awhile he lifted his head up and peeked into the room.
Melissa pointed at me with her hand beneath her comforter. “When you go downstairs, bring me up a cookie.”
I sat up a little straighter in bed, thankful that I wasn’t in the direct path of the doorway so Billy wouldn’t see if I wasn’t lying down. “What makes you think I’m going downstairs?” I asked, pushing my long, curly red hair back behind my shoulders. My fingers twisted in the gnarled locks, and I kept braiding and unbraiding long strands down my back.
“You always go downstairs on Christmas Eve,” said Melissa, her hand wrapped around a small pink flashlight. Upon the comforter beside her was a copy of ‘Seventeen,’ one of many copies that she kept hidden beneath her bed. Ahab—Daddy--didn’t like those magazines because he said they were trash, and it was bad enough that Melissa got crazy ideas from the girls at school. So Melissa bought magazines with names like ‘Madmoiselle’ and ‘Cosmopolitan’ from her friends, and she hid them beneath her mattress where she could read them and where I could reach them if I wanted to look at the pictures.
“I do not!” I said, lowering my voice as a shadow passed by the door. The clock on my nightstand said ‘9:45.’ Fifteen more minutes and Billy would have to go to sleep. Those were house rules.
“Don’t sass me,” Melissa said, and she glanced at the doorway before she turned her flashlight back on. “You know you’re going to wait until Billy has to go brush his teeth and then you’re going to sneak downstairs. You do it every year, Dana. All I’m saying is bring me back a cookie because I’m hungry.”
“No way, dumb butt. Mom said not to eat the cookies until tomorrow. She will so know that I took one.”
Melissa twisted her head towards the ray of light painting the carpet at the foot of her bed. After a second or so, she turned her head back and brought the flashlight up. The deep white glow of the bulb caught me in the eye and I groaned, my hand flying up in front of my face.
“Jesus, Dana. Don’t be such a downer. God forbid you should actually do something bad. You do know what bad is, right? It’s that thing that’s the opposite of good?”
I took a few deep breaths, my knuckles grasping tightly to the ends of my green and blue colored comforter. “I know what it is!” I hissed, feeling as if I might bang my fist against the night table and just knock everything off.
I hated that I was the smallest and the youngest. I restened how I was last to know about things like cigarettes and babies and falling in love. I was sick of being last. Billy was always saying how he was bigger and stronger, and how he would always be better than me. Melissa said that I was silly, and that if I was always covered in mud, or if I kept my head buried in all my boring books, I would never find anything fun to do. The hazards, Melissa said, of being the last born is that you get all the bad genes.
I just wanted to prove all of them wrong.
“What if I don’t want to get you a dumb old cookie?” I asked.
Melissa smiled. “You know you will.”
“Because you worship me. And because if you don’t, I’m going to… I’m going to pour water all over your bed and tell Mom and Dad you had an accident!”
I narrowed my eyes. “Go ahead and do it, stupid head. I haven’t had an accident in years.”
Melissa made a face beneath the beam of the flashlight. “Fine, maybe I will,” she said.
My mother’s strong voice called to Billy from down the hall, interrupting the argument and momentarily silencing us: ‘Brush your teeth, Billy. Then go and say your prayers.'
“Yes, Ma’am,” said Billy from the hallway.
Melissa flipped off the flashlight and dove beneath the covers. I flopped back down and turned my head towards the opened window. The white lace curtains fluttered back and forth against the wall: up and down, in and out, bringing in the smell of fresh rain.
Billy’s head popped in through the open doorway. I could see him from the corner of one eye. “You’d better be asleep,” he said. “You were due in bed at twenty one hundred. No sneaking around. It’s Christmas Eve.”
*** **** *** ** ***
“It’s Christmas Eve!” I said, slamming the chipped, vomit colored door to the motel room shut behind me. Dark, hard, fast drops of rain assaulted my shoulders and stained the black fabric of my suit. “Do you think this is fun for me, Mulder? Do you think I want to do this right now?”
“That’s not what I’m saying,” Mulder said. His hair whipped about his face, a few dark brown locks getting soaked and stuck to his cheeks. “I just don’t appreciate being lied to. Mislead. By you, of all people.”
The sky was dark—a cross between navy, gray and black. I couldn’t say that it was one color or the other because the real and true sky was hidden--obscured by a mass of thunderous clouds. A torrent of water slanted and streamed from the sky. Across the street, a zig-zagged string of white twinkle lights blinked at me from atop the window of a two story house. I couldn’t help but wonder if there was a Christmas tree in that house, if there was a family inside who told stories of Jesus Christ and Santa Claus. Were they at home? Were they at Midnight Mass? Did they have a dog or a cat?
What a joke, I thought. The rest of the world was celebrating and I was fucking working. No husband, no children. Just working. The bureau was under a lot of pressure, or so I was told. I was asked to help catch a psychotic. Undercover, Skinner had said, and by yourself. I'd agreed. Mulder followed me.
I turned to face my partner and felt my resolve melting. How easy it would be to tell him ‘okay.’ How easy it would be to go back into that motel room and forget about monsters and serial killers and all the evils of the world for one night. A Christmas Carol was playing on Channel Five continuously. I was supposed to unwrap that present he'd given me: the gold papered box. Jesus, what was I doing to myself?
“I didn’t mislead you,” I said.
“You kept this from me.”
“I did what I thought was best.”
I pivoted on my heel and Mulder grabbed my arm. A blast of lightning sizzled above us. “Why?” he asked me, his eyes filled with a mixture of anger and hurt. “What in the hell are you doing here?”
* ** **** *** **
“We’re here for the presents, Puffy.” My stuffed gray bunny, Puffy, hung limply from my left hand. Puffy never seemed to be very interested in opening presents, maybe because he was just a stuffed bunny. Every year Mom would leave Puffy some carrots in my stocking, but Puffy didn’t really like those, either. “They’re not imaginary carrots, Mommy,” I’d told her last year. "Puffy can't eat them." Mom thought that this was hysterically funny for whatever reason, but I just thought it was logical.
“Okay, you stay here,” I said, and I put a finger to my lips. “Shh, don’t wake anybody.” I dropped Puffy to the couch and carefully laid him back against the pillows. It was very important that Puffy be comfortable while he sat and watched the tree.
I turned on ballet-slippered feet towards the center of the living room. The plate on the coffee table was empty, which meant that all the chocolate chip cookies had been eaten. Had Santa really come to visit, I wondered, or had Daddy eaten all the cookies?
“It must have been Santa,” I said to Puffy, and I walked towards the piece de resistance—the seven foot tall, Scully family Christmas tree. Silver tinsel swayed back and forth on the dark green, pine branches, and strands of puffy blue garland zigzagged around and around until all the strands converged at the top. All the ornaments were big, bright balls of silver, blue, and purple, and they hung aristocratically, as if proud to have been positioned by THE William Scully, Navy captain. This year, the flashing lights were multicolored-- sparkling jems that made everything look bright and happy and beautiful.
I giggled at the sight, too giddy to speak.
An aura of red, blue, green, yellow and orange twinkle lights danced off the walls of the living room. The couch smelled like pine needles—the pillows, the woven throw… every piece of furniture and every stitch of cloth smelled like Christmas. If I closed my eyes I could see sunlight spilling in through the picture window in our kitchen, the rays of gold dancing off the back of my mother’s head. Mom had baked chocolate chip cookies for desert after Christmas dinner. She also cooked a banana cream pie the evening before—hands off, she told my father and my brothers. Strictly for Christmas Day.
I bent forward and touched the bows on one of the presents. My fingers danced over the ribbon as if an alarm were attached to it. I could hear my heartbeat thundering out of my chest, the throbbing going through my arms and vibrating out my fingertips. The glow of the blinking tree brought multicolored splashes of light to my hands.
I shouldn’t be up this late. I knew I shouldn’t. Nobody downstairs before six am--that was the rule.
‘To Dana, From Santa,’ said the tag beneath the big scarlet bow. This had to be the Easy Bake Oven I wanted. I’d been begging Mom and Dad for weeks. And oh, the package was so big and so heavy, all covered in green and red striped wrapping paper. What if I opened it now? Would Mom and Dad be mad? Like, really mad?
The floor creaked behind me.
“Dana! What are you doing?”
**** **** **** * *
“What do you mean, what am I doing?” I took a deep breath and shoved a soaked lock of hair behind my ear.
Mulder stood facing me, rain beading down his face and onto the pavement. He let go of my arm but didn’t step back. His hazel eyes were narrowed, darting from me, to the door of the car, and then back to me again. His gun was in his free hand and he waved the barrel around like a madman. “What the hell business do you have using yourself as bait?” he demanded, pulling up in front of me. “What the fuck do you think you’re doing, going in without me? You know how dangerous that is?”
Thunder sliced through the air, the static electricity charging the ground, the humidity pushing steam up off the pavement. There was a lopsided wreath hanging on the door to the lobby of the motel. Silver, blue, and purple ornament balls dripped with water that puddled on the sidewalk below. “Merry Christmas,” said the red and green plastic banner above the door. The parking lot was practically empty, save for one white rental car that bathed us both in the glow of white headlights. I'd left the engine running when I ran out the first time to drop my briefcase on the passenger's seat.
“I’m going to catch this son of a bitch,” I said, and as if to prove my point, I yanked the extra clip from inside my jacket and shoved it up into the butt of the gun. My fingers dripped with warm droplets of rain, twitched under the weight of plastic and metal. Nobody should have to do this on Christmas Eve, I thought, and the click of the gun echoed in my ears.
God, Mulder, I thought. Like I want to be standing in the middle of a rainstorm thousands of miles away from my family. Like I want to go undercover on Christmas Eve. Like I was the one who’d been ordered not to tell you the specifics of the sting operation.
“This is insane,” Mulder said. “I won’t let you go in alone.”
I shook my head. “Don’t do this, Mulder.”
“Look—this isn’t some vengeful, impulsive decision. I’m not going on a suicide mission. We’re talking about two vans worth of agents and more in the bar.”
Mulder bent his head back into the rain for a moment, his chin tilted, his eyes closed. He opened his mouth towards the strands of droplets that fell like sheets of crystal. He almost looked like he was trying to drown himself standing up. When he lowered his head again, his expression was filled with steadiness and conviction. “I’m going in with you,” he said.
“What are you going to do, then?” I demanded, turning on my heel and walking towards the car. I kicked up water as I moved. “You going to hang around the bar and be my pimp, my father, my older brother, or my gay best friend?”
“Jesus, Scully!” Mulder threw his hands up in the air as if surrendering. His face crumpled in a heartbreaking mask of confusion and helplessness. I felt like I was walking away from him. Leaving him. God damn it---
Yesterday, Mulder had given me a baby Christmas tree adorned with beads and bows to put in my hotel room. He’d even cut a star out of paper to scotch tape on top. ‘Sorry the store didn’t have any real ones,’ he’d said, shrugging. I smiled and said that I thought it was simply the most beautiful tree I had ever seen, the paper star the most perfect topper he could have given me.
I taught Mulder how to sing ‘Sleigh Ride’ that night over a cup of mocha-flavored coffee. He’d fallen asleep on the edge of my bed afterwards, both of us spent from arguing over the validity of Auld Lang’s Ayne, and from one or two games of poker he’d insisted on playing over a bag of M &Ms.
The rain seemed to wash away everything, all the sweet, useless time we’d spent together the night before. Why couldn’t Mulder and I ever seem to get it together? Why did we always take one step forward and then three steps backwards off the edge of a ravine?
“What do you want me to say, Mulder? Because I’m not apologizing for doing the job I’ve been asked to do. I won’t.” I turned to face him.
Rain came like a waterfall splashing down from the sky. It felt like an ocean between us. My wet hand found his cheek and I ran my index finger along his jaw line. “I was asked to accept this position on the condition that you be kept in the dark. Skinner believed that your presence at the pub would compromise the sting. I believe he’s right. What I need for you to do now is trust me. Do you trust me, Mulder?”
**** **** ***** **** ** **
“I knew you couldn’t be trusted, Dana.”
Billy stood with his arms folded, his chin jutted in much the manner I’d seen my father jut his chin when he was angry.
“Shut up, Billy!” I said, my arms wrapped around the big present with the bow on it. The box was as wide as it was tall, and the weight nearly had me bowled over. My legs shook beneath my nightgown and my knees nearly buckled beneath me. Even still, I wasn’t about to give in. Not to Billy or to anyone. The present was mine, mine damn it, and I was taking it with me to the couch to go to sleep, whether Billy liked it or not. Nobody was going to stop me. I was so sick to death of people telling me what to do.
“You need to go back to bed,” Billy said. “Now give it over.”
“Give it!” Billy lunged.
“Leave me alone!” I backed up towards the couch and fell to the floor. My tailbone connected with the corner of the couch as I dropped, and I suppressed the urge to cry out in pain. The package rolled out of my hands and knocked into the coffee table. Red, green, blue and yellow chaser lights waltzed in a blurred frenzy off Billy’s face and shoulders. He looked like a big wooden soldier. Behind him, more presents spilled out of the living room and into the hallway in an overflowing mess of boxes and oblong packages and bulging paper bags.
“I’m a big girl!” I wailed through the sting of saline. My cheeks were wet and a lock of hair was stuck to my jaw. “Quit bossing me around or I’ll tell Mom!”
From the floor, Billy seemed to tower over me like a giant building. His hands rested on his hips and he stood with his legs wide. “You’ll tell her what?” he asked.
*** **** *** *
“I’ll tell you what, Scully.” Mulder touched my chin. His fingers felt wet and slippery, the sensation shooting chills down neck and out my arms. “I’ll stay out of this—“ He tipped my face up so that we were eye to eye. “If you promise to leave the line open. I’ll call give you a call after you leave. Just hit ‘talk’ and don’t hang up. I want to hear everything that goes on.”
“I trust you.” He was close enough now to run his hand down the side of my face, tuck a stray lock of sopping wet hair behind my ear. “It’s everyone else that makes me trigger happy.”
I thought of the Christmas tree in my room, the gold beads that Mulder had strung along the tiny branches. One present sat beneath the tree in a small, gold-papered box. ‘To Dana Scully, From Spooky Claus,’ it said.
‘You don’t have to open it now,’ Mulder had said. ‘I mean, you can open it whenever you want. Tonight, when we get back... I just wanted you to have something under the tree.’
Rain dripped down my lashes, skipped over my nose, bounced off my chin. Mulder looked somehow taller in the beams of the headlights, his wet suit clinging to his lean legs and long torso. He looked almost like an overgrown child caught in a rainstorm. He was so... so...
My Mulder with water dripping from his chesnut colored hair. My Mulder with the gun hanging by his side and his eyes focused on the floor.
And all I wanted to do was go back into my room, crawl under the covers with him, and watch the tree blink on and off from the bed. I wanted to pretend that it was just Mulder and I, that we had a house and a sparkly tree and the kids, and we’d never seen a day of work at the FBI, and instead of rain there was snow, so much snow that we would never be able to leave the house the next day.
Yeah. Like that would ever happen.
I shook the thought from my head.
“You can’t go charging in if something happens,” I said, a set of keys dangling from my hand.
“Well, my white steed is in the shop…”
We smiled at each other through the downpour. Mulder shook his head as if resigned to a decision he didn’t want to make.
“No, it’s fine. I won’t need to,” Mulder said, and he sighed. One hand went up to his chin and he swept away some of the water. “You can take care of yourself.”
Lightning slashed through the thrumming monotony of the rain, illuminating the sky and turning it to day. Through the white-blue light I saw Mulder’s eyes, and the confidence that shone in them. He had faith in me. Nobody but Mulder looked at me that way--like only I knew whether the sun would indeed rise the next morning. I knew Mulder was just upset, that his ego had been bruised. Mulder worried about me, and I knew he just wanted to remain in the loop, to stay informed. He wanted to know I would never lie to him, or keep anything from him.
“When I get back, we’ll watch A Christmas Carol,” I said, and opened the car door. “Besides, you owe me five M&Ms and I want to collect.”
I had to go. We both knew I had to go.
Mulder forced one last smile and gave a slight wave. “I’ll see you when you get back--”
“BACK! Get back, Billy!”
“No. Get upstairs, shrimp-o.”
“Shut up already! You want to—“
"Agent Scully! Behind you!"
“Gun! He’s got a gun!”
“FBI! Don’t move!”
“Noooooo! I don't wanna, Billy. It's my present! I can keep it if I want--”
“Geez! Dana, quit screaming—“
“— in your sleep, Scully. I’m surprised Wisconsin didn't hear you. What happened in that bar? Just... Tell me. Tell me what to do.”
“Stay here, Mulder. Stay here with me a little while---”
"Gun! Gun! Gun!"
"--I love you. Marry me. We can... we take the baby and run away. Far away from here. Wherever you want to go."
"Don't think about it. Just look at me. What is it you really want?"
"No! Taking too long. One answer. Close your eyes and--"
The bed jerks.
I open my eyes and groan, squint against the light. Yellow walls. Large bed. I'm lying down and my clothes are gone. Oh God, what happened to my--Or wait, I'm still wearing that gown, the blue one from the Doctor's office. Still itchy. I want to tearthe paper off and stuff it down the garbage. Fuck. My clothes must still be folded on Vicki's chair. But...where's Vicki? Did I pass out? I don't remember passing out. I remember hearing about my symptoms, and how my blood tests had turned out to be--
Oh my God.
I turn my head. A petite woman wearing green scrubs smiles down at me. I have no idea who she is, but I can only hope she's not some evil nurse from some bizarro hospital on this planet I seem to have landed on. Her name-tag says "Marina," and beneath her name the words "Georgetown Medical Center" are printed in small, black letters.
Okay. Well, I think I'm still on Planet Earth. Harmless enough.
Marina has wavy, strawbery blonde hair and big blue eyes. For a moment, I see a glimpse of my sister in her face. But when I blink, Missy's face is gone.
"What happened?" I ask, stretching my arms and pushing back on my elbows.
"Oh...Nothing too alarming. You just fainted," Marina says, a large brown clipboard in her hands. "You have dangerously low blood sugar, not to mention uncommonly low blood pressure. Dr. Klausman requested that you allow her to prescribe you some extra vitamins. She said that the intensity and frequency of your fainting spells probably have something to do with these factors--not to mention over-exertion and stress. I think that baby's trying to tell you something."
I swallow, suddenly feeling numb. I don't... Can't... How do I tell Mulder that I'm--
"The baby," I say, my voice foreign.
"The baby, yes," says Marina. "Dr. Klausman is going over your history right now. She said she'll be in soon to check on you. She also said to tell you that 'at least you're not as bad off as Fluffy,' or something like that."
My mouth is dry. A baby.
"Oh--" Nurse Marina waves her hand as if afraid of forgetting something important. "Speaking of babies, there's a man with a baby outside to see you. He um, he sounded pretty anxious--actually, he threatened to arrest the entire nurse's station and bring everyone up on charges if he couldn't see you. He said his name was 'Mulder.' Is it okay to send him in or should I just...um, call the police or ah, maybe a swat team?"
Oh Christ. I can just imagine Mulder waving his gun and his badge around the waiting room. For a second I'm tempted to tell Nurse Marina to just call the police.
"Tell him..." I shake my head. "Tell him to...um..."
I can't finish the sentence.